My current series of artwork, Sanctuary has been two years in creating and continues still. During the spring of 2017, my mental health began to fail. I had faced depression before and had been clinically diagnosed some 20 years prior; I recognized the thought patterns, the confusion, rumination, and melancholia. I knew that my mind wasn’t right but I couldn’t make sense of my thoughts. And the worst of it is that the rumination was a vacuum for theology and philosophy; the very systems that gave me peace were now causing extreme pain.
After a year of clawing for thoughts that made sense, attending recovery groups, and seeing therapists, I was finally able to see a psychiatrist. There, my mind was validated, my thoughts, which still made no sense, had a place: I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Although I now had an answer, I couldn’t understand what this meant; I wasn’t consumed with obsessions of illness or disarray. I didn’t have compulsions of cleaning and organizing. But I soon realized that I experienced a different type of obsessions and compulsions. I have Scrupulosity.
A disorder that is often named, “religious OCD,” scrupulosity has haunted people for centuries. Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and others in Christian history are thought to have been victims of this same “doubting disease.” Like them, I have a predilection to OCD, but because my spirituality and faith are so important to me, it manifests itself in matters of such.
My obsession is to understand scripture, fearing not being able to understand it; my compulsion is to scrutinize scripture, feeding the anxiety and obsession, thereby stoking the compulsions. My mind had to organize every detail of philosophy or theology and yet, my mind could never rest on an answer. It only circled. I could not eat. I could not sleep. I couldn’t concentrate or function. I was mentally and emotionally consumed in a cycle of hell, on the verge of hospitalization. The only place I could find reprieve, the ONLY place that made any sense to me was in my spirit, in Christ’s presence within me. Looking past my body and soul and into my identity, my spirit, where I walked with Christ was the only respite I could find, even if it only lasted for two seconds before the next obsession/ compulsion strangled my mind. I soon realized that this scrupulosity was something I had, not who I was. And in that sanctuary I stole seconds of rest from my painfully scratching thoughts, the reality of color where there was only room in my head for black and white.